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N26 gets go-ahead

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N26 gets go-ahead

Áine Ryan

BLAME for Mayo’s failure to receive any national primary road funding in the National Roads Authority’s (NRA’s) 2007 allocation has been laid at the feet of Minister for Transport, Martin Cullen.
In a stinging attack, the chairman of Mayo County Council’s Road and Transportation Strategic Policy Committee (RTSPC), Cllr Michelle Mulherin, said that because Minister Cullen failed to implement the Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) for the second phase of the N26 (Ballina to Bohola) in 2006, no monies are being allocated for the construction of a primary road in the county this year.
She told The Mayo News that 2007 allocations for the county, which were announced yesterday (Tuesday), amounted to less than €1 million and would fund the implementation of CPOs for the second phase of the N26, the completion of the Charlestown bypass and funding for the N59 Crossmolina to Bellacorick road at Moylough. This was a ‘mere drop in the ocean’ of the authority’s budget, she said, adding that commitment on the vital N5 Castlebar to Westport road was still in mid-air.
Ms Mulherin led a cross-party delegation to the NRA last Friday. It had been hoped that a commitment would be given to the group on capital funding for either the completion of the 18km stretch of the N26 from Ballina to Bohola or on the N5. While a commitment has now been given on the N26, construction work is not expected to start until 2009, which means that no primary route project will be in progress in the county for up to a year.
Ms Mulherin argued that the county with the longest national secondary roads network in the country has been allocated less than two per cent of the NRA’s overall budget, further evidence of the ‘disgraceful infrastructural underspend in the BMW region’.
Meanwhile, her General Election rival in Ballina, Dara Calleary, has warmly welcomed Mr Cullen’s announcement about the N26 and the N59, stating he was now confident that Government would deliver on the completion of the second phase of the N26 from Mount Falcon to Bohola.
He told The Mayo News that it had taken his selection as a Fianna Fáil candidate to deliver the final phase of the 32-year-old N26 saga.  
“Michelle Mulherin has been chairman of the RTSPC since 2004 and there was no progress. It took my selection as a candidate to deliver it,” said Dara Calleary, confirming an allocation of €200,000 for the N59 at Moylough.
Mr Calleary cited his direct involvement in Ballina Chamber of Commerce’s postcard campaign, which involved the sending of 5,000 cards to Minister Cullen, highlighting the importance of the road’s completion. He also said he had stressed the issue to Minister Seamus Brennan and Taoiseach Berite Ahern during visits to Ballina in recent months.
“This funding will allow the completion of the compulsory purchase orders necessary to acquire the remaining land to complete the second stage. When this land is acquired, we will be ready to go to construction and I am confident that construction will commence in late 2008 or early 2009,” said Mr Calleary.
Ms Mulherin disagreed, arguing it could be 2011 before the road is completed. She accused  Mr Calleary of living ‘in fantasy land’ and of ‘being fed lines’ by his Government cronies who have patently failed to deliver on Mayo’s roads.
Chairman of the Council for the West, and Killala businessman, Mr Sean Hannick told The Mayo News that while he welcomed the allocations, funding for the Ballaghaderreen bypass was essential for the development of Mayo’s business sector.
“Of course, I welcome the commitment of the CPO (for the N26), it means that the road will go ahead. And if there was goodwill by Government and the land-owners it could be under construction as early as next year,” said Mr Hannick.
However, he stressed the significance of ‘access roads’ to the county.
“The Ballaghaderreen bypass needs to go ahead immediately and since, I believe, the archaeological problems at Rathcroghan have been resolved, there is nothing to stop it. We have the worst access roads to any county in the whole country,” continued Mr Hannick. 
The fact there was no commitment on the N5 between Castlebar and Westport, the busiest road in the county, was strongly criticised by Ms Mulherin, Mr Calleary and Mr Hannick.